Wednesday, 21 October 2015

More Lockerbie errors by Magnus Linklater

[This is the headline over an article posted today by John Ashton on his Megrahi: You are my Jury website.  It reads as follows:]

The following article by Magnus Linklater appears in the Scottish edition of The Times under the headline Lockerbie evidence points firmly in the direction of Libya. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with Mr Linklater’s writing on Lockerbie, it contains numerous distortions and factual errors.

The article follows in italics, interspersed with my comments.

It is time to extinguish the last embers of controversy that have heated the Lockerbie case for so long. For more than two decades critics have argued that Scottish police got the wrong man and that the prosecution of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi was — perhaps deliberately — a botched job.

Yet last week, after a long and dogged investigation, the Crown Office announced that it had identified two further suspects, and was asking the government in Tripoli to allow it access to them in prison.

The investigation of the two new suspects was done primarily by Ken Dornstein. The key fact that Ken uncovered (the fact that Megrahi’s alleged associate Abu Agila Mas’ud was a suspect in the La Belle Disco bombing) was missed by the Crown Office for 18 years.

It may not succeed — Libya is in chaos at the moment — but it is clear that enough prima facie evidence has now emerged to perhaps home in on those who planned and helped execute a terrorist attack that killed 270 innocent people 27 years ago.

I agree that there is a prima facie case against Mas’ud, just as there was against Megrahi, and I hope he can be brought to trial. However, the case against him will rely on much of the discredited evidence that convicted Megrahi.

Those who have argued down the years that this line of inquiry is misguided, and that Libya was not responsible, have some hard questions to answer.

No one that I know of has argued that the Crown should not pursue lines of inquiry that point to Libya. Our criticism of the Crown is that it has failed to pursue exculpatory evidence.

Why would the Crown Office still be spending public money and using scarce resources to shore up a case that is — as its critics claim — fundamentally flawed?

One reason might be that, it is a way of keeping at bay the tide of scandal that surrounds Megrahi’s prosecution. Another question, which Mr Linklater fails to ask, is: why is the Crown not using its resources to consider the evidence that points away from Libya, such as the forensic evidence, that shows that the fragment of circuit board PT/35b did not, as the Crown alleged at trial, originate from a timer supplied to Libya by the Swiss company Mebo?

The central accusations that have sustained the conspiracy theorists is that evidence was manipulated by the CIA to accuse Libya rather than Syria or Iran; that information was withheld from defence lawyers representing al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the bombing; and that Scottish judges presided over what they call “the worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history”.

Wrong. The central allegation, which is in the realm of fact, not conspiracy, is that the Crown withheld exculpatory evidence. We also believe that it was a terrible miscarriage of justice, for which the judges must share the blame. On this point, Mr Linklater fails to report that the SCCRC ruled that the trial court judgment was unreasonable.

Ever since, they argue, the Scottish judicial system has connived in an attempt to prevent the truth coming out. Allowing al-Megrahi back to Libya on condition that he dropped his appeal was part of the strategy.

Wrong. It has never been seriously suggested by Megrahi’s mainstream supporters that the Scottish judicial system pressured Megrahi to drop his appeal. The pressure was purely political and came from the Scottish Government and/or the Libyan government.

Why, then, should that same legal process be obstinately nurturing a case that it must, by now, have conceded is wrong-headed? Perhaps, as one of its accusers has alleged, the explanation is sheer stupidity. Or, as another claims, it is desperately trying to cover its tracks by pursuing an empty investigation.

But perhaps it is simply following the evidence, and doing what every family of every Lockerbie victim wants it to, which is trying to get at the truth. The hard facts are that every countertheory, and every alternative thread of evidence, has been examined to distraction, and has led nowhere.

Wrong. The counter evidence relating to PT/35b (and much else) has not been pursued.

The time has come for those who cling to them to accept that the evidence points firmly in the direction of Libya rather than the myriad of misty theories and unsupported allegations on which their case has rested.

Wrong. The primary claims of Megrahi’s supporters are supported by a wealth of hard evidence, the great majority of which was gathered by the Scottish police.


  1. 1) If you have a poorly supported theory/product that you need to promote, then any new discovery than can be regarded as supportive for it should be loudly announced, as if it hammered an already clear case home.

    2) Likewise, evidence that conflicts with your theory should be bypassed in silence.
    If forced to answer, comment on it on a level that derails any real discussion. Don't worry if qualified opponents will regard you as an idiot. It is not them you are talking to anyway.

    3) Do not forget to simply add some confusing or wrong info now and then. It muds up the debate, and make qualified responses so long that few people have the time anyway to read it or sort out what would be real or not.

    4) Do not spend time on studying, as discoveries may lead to uncertainty. Just stay focused on your productivity.

  2. I've pretty much given up trying to engage with Magnus Linklater. Trying to explain quantum physics to a brick wall would be more rewarding.

    Some time ago, on Twitter, he represented himself as an expert on the case. He claimed to have a "deep understanding" of the case, which I took to mean he was at least familiar with the most crucial points of evidence. Despite Prof. Black declaring that it was impossible to explain my thesis on Twitter, I said I could, to someone with a deep familiarity with the evidence. I said something like this.

    1. The blue Tourister suitcase was on top of the bomb suitcase, not underneath it.
    2. Sidhu said he didn't move the Heathrow interline luggage when he added the Frankfurt online luggage.
    3. None of the legitimate Heathrow interline suitcases was under the bomb.
    4. In fact the bomb suitcase was on the bottom of the stack.
    5. Therefore the case Bedford saw at 4.45 was the bomb, it didn't travel on the feeder flight.

    He didn't answer me despite prodding. In the end he said something dismissive about his NOT being an expert on the Lockerbie evidence. He doesn't tweet much and he simply refused to engage with me after that.

    Then he published that dire Scottish Review article, in which he referred to my book. My impression was that he hadn't read it but was rubbishing it on assumptions he was making which weren't true. I asked him on Twitter if he had read it. Eventually he replied saying that he had, but in fact sufficient time had gone by that he could have read it after I asked the question. I asked him to explain how I was wrong. Where was the mistake, or the missed evidence, or the alternative explanation that I hadn't spotted that could keep the Frankfurt/Malta theory alive. I never got an answer.

    This is typical Magnus. Sound out complete bollox on the public platform his job as a journalist gives him. Patronise those he's bad-mouthing and refuse to engage with their arguments. Go quiet for a bit. Rinse and repeat.

    I am sick and tired of begging people who still maintain Megrahi was guilty to explain to me how they counter my arguments. Nearly two years and nobody has even given it a try. I don't even have any arguments from them to counter. Just silence, or sneering, or misrepresentation in the public press.

    Pravda's editors would have been proud of Magnus. PS. I don't believe he ever read my book.